Godly Anger Versus Selfish Anger
“[Love] is not provoked” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Self-centered anger cannot coexist with love.
The great eighteenth-century preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards had a daughter with an uncontrollable temper. When a young man asked Dr. Edwards for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he said no. The young man was crushed. “But I love her and she loves me,” he pleaded. “That makes no difference,” Edwards replied, “she isn’t worthy of you.” “But she is a Christian, isn’t she,” the young man argued. “Yes,” said Edwards, “but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live.”
That may seem harsh, but Jonathan Edwards knew what his would-be son-in-law hadn’t yet learned: the presence of selfish anger indicates the absence of genuine love. “Love,” said Paul, “is not provoked.” It isn’t given to sudden outbursts of emotion or action. It doesn’t respond in anger to offenses committed against it.
Paul wasn’t talking about anger over sin and its terrible consequences. That’s righteous indignation, which Christians are expected to have. When Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers out of the temple (John 2:14-15), He was genuinely angry because His Father’s house was being desecrated. But He never reacted that way when He was personally attacked or maligned. In the same way, it’s right for you to be angry when others are mistreated, when God is offended, or when His Word is misrepresented. But love always bears up under personal attacks.
Such graciousness is foreign to our society, which teaches us to fight for our personal rights and retaliate when we don’t get what we think we deserve. That has produced greedy and loveless people who want little more than personal success and comfort. Anyone who dares to stand in their way is in danger of incurring their wrath.
As a Christian, you must resist such influences by focusing on your spiritual duty rather than your rights. If you expect nothing from the world, you won’t be angered or disappointed when nothing comes. Remember, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). So humble yourself before Him and He will exalt you at the proper time (James 4:10).
Suggestions for Prayer
- Ask God for the grace to forgive those who wrong you.
For Further Study
- According to Ephesians 4:26-27, how should you deal with anger?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.